Wong Ah Yoke Food Critic recommends

Light Italian, crab lohei and more

The insalata di mare ($29) is a dish that will win over seafood lovers, with its combination of prawns, octopus, scallops, clams and calamari arranged on the plate with a colourful salad of zucchini, baby carrots and asparagus spears.
The insalata di mare ($29) is a dish that will win over seafood lovers, with its combination of prawns, octopus, scallops, clams and calamari arranged on the plate with a colourful salad of zucchini, baby carrots and asparagus spears.PHOTOS: ST REGIS SINGAPORE, CARLTON HOTEL SINGAPORE, SPIES & ALL THINGS NICE, MANDARIN ORIENTAL SINGAPORE

LIGHT, FLAVOURFUL ITALIAN FOOD

The new menu at LaBrezza by chef de cuisine Luca Moioli, who joined the poolside Italian restaurant at The St Regis Singapore last year, is designed for Singaporeans who like their food light yet flavourful.

Achieving this is not as simple as it sounds, but a good example can be found in the restaurant's ravioli del plin ($24). The ravioli itself is a classic with chicken, pork and veal wrapped in a pasta dough skin, not the paper-thin wonton skin that some restaurants have switched to using. But the dish manages to taste much lighter than the typical Italian pasta dish because the natural braising sauce it is served in is made without heavy cream. Even the parmesan cheese shaved on it at the table does not weigh down the dish.

The insalata di mare ($29) is a dish that will win over seafood lovers, with its combination of prawns, octopus, scallops, clams and calamari arranged on the plate with a colourful salad of zucchini, baby carrots and asparagus spears.

The zuppa di porcini e pollo is a thick porcini mushroom soup ($18) filled with cubes of slow-roasted chicken breast and topped with mushroom espuma and hazelnut powder. Served warm in a glass, it is comforting and satisfying. It is served with a cheese breadstick, but add a piece of focaccia and you have a light lunch right there.

I especially like the cheery ambience at lunchtime, with sunlight streaming in and the occasional splash of water from the swimming pool adding to the relaxing mood.

WHERE: LaBrezza, The St Regis Singapore, 29 Tanglin Road MRT: Orchard WHEN: Noon to 10pm daily TEL: 6506-6884



Alaskan Crab Lo Hei from Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant at Carlton Hotel. 

LO HEI WITH CRABMEAT

Many restaurants have come up with yusheng without raw fish this year because they anticipate that diners will give the fish a miss after the recent Group B Streptococcus infection outbreak caused by eating raw freshwater fish.

This is despite the fact that restaurants here use saltwater fish for yusheng.

Without the fish, however, most yusheng do not taste as good. For me, it often becomes a boring sweet salad. But chef Ng Wai Tong at Wah Lok has come up with an Alaskan Crab Lo Hei (above) that makes me forget there is no fish in it.

The chunks of crabmeat are delicately sweet and there are enough pieces for you not to have to dig through the vegetables to find them. The dressing is also not too sweet, so it doesn't mask the flavour of the crab.

The dish is available a la carte from $128 (for six people) or as part of the restaurant's Prosperity Set Menu ($1,688 for eight people), which includes dishes such as roasted suckling pig, steamed turbot fish and chilled bird's nest with cream of pomelo and mango with sago.

For those who prefer raw fish, the restaurant also offers its annual favourite - the Hamachi Yusheng "Soon Tak" Style, which is tossed in a savoury soya sauce dressing. This is served as the first course of a $1,528 menu for eight people that also comes with dishes such as Buddha Jumps Over The Wall and braised dried oysters with black moss and vegetables.

WHERE: Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant, Carlton Hotel Singapore, 76 Bras Basah Road MRT: Bras Basah, City Hall WHEN: Till Feb 22 TEL: 6311-8188



Pineapple tarts from SPies & All Things Nice.

TARTS WITH CRUNCHY PINEAPPLE JAM

Last year, The Straits Times' team of food writers had a blind tasting of pineapple tarts just before Chinese New Year. But one that missed the tasting turned out to be my favourite instead.

The pastries (above) from SPies & All Things Nice, a stall in Bedok Marketplace, stood out because the pineapple jam has a crunchy texture and nice tartness. The jam is rolled in pastry rather than spread on it, and flecks of kaffir lime leaves on the pastry perk up the flavours nicely.

They are back this year, but supplies are limited as they are handmade from scratch.

Make sure you eat the tarts within two weeks of collecting them because no preservative is added.

Or keep them refrigerated and toast them just before eating. That way, they can keep up to a month.

WHERE: SPies & All Things Nice, 02-15 The Bedok Marketplace, 348 Bedok Road MRT: Bedok WHEN: Last day of collection is on Feb 5 PRICE: $14 for 15 pieces, $28.80 for 30 pieces, $32.80 for 50 pieces INFO: Order online at www.spiespies.com/store. For details, call 8298-2535



Luxurious Pen Cai from Cherry Garden.

FESTIVE FOOD IN ABUNDANCE

If you are looking for abundance - something much desired during Chinese New Year - you will find it in the Luxurious Pen Cai (above) at Cherry Garden. It is the biggest pen cai I've seen and it comes in a wooden tub so large I can barely put my arms around it.

It is packed with festive ingredients that, to the Chinese, promise goodness and wealth - such as abalone, sea cucumber, conpoy, scallop and whole lobsters. There is also roast duck, chicken, roast pork belly, dace fillet, Tianjin cabbage and other vegetables.

It comes only as part of the Success set menu that costs $138 a person (minimum six people) and includes salmon and crispy fish skin yusheng, braised Shanghai nian gao (rice cake) with preserved vegetables, conpoy, silver sprout and yellow chive, as well as a dessert of cherries in nu er hong wine and aged kuei hua wine cocktail jelly with lychee sorbet.

WHERE: Cherry Garden, Mandarin Oriental Singapore, 5 Raffles Avenue MRT: Promenade WHEN: Till Feb 22 TEL: 6885-3500

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2016, with the headline '(No headline) - AYPICKS22'. Print Edition | Subscribe